Anna Neagle plays Sunny O'Sullivan, the star of a small, upscale circus run by Bunny Billings (Ray Bolger).
In New Orleans during Mardi Gras she meets by accident Larry Warren (John Carroll), handsome scion of the wealthy Warrens of Waverly Hall.
They fall in love, but Sunny has to deal with the conflicts between his snooty family and her down-to-earth circus pals.
October 12, 2011 Subject:
Kern and Hammerstein musical
This is the second film adaptation of the Broadway musical by the same name, written by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II (the same partnership that produced Showboat). Sunny figures prominently in the Jerome Kern biopic, Till the Clouds Roll By, which is also available here on IA.
The Wikipedia article on Sunny (the musical play) indicates that the first film adaptation (1930) starred Marilyn Miller, who also starred in the original Broadway production, and that this 1941 version was remade "with a highly revised plot." It would be great to have the 1930 film for comparison; nevertheless, Ann Neagle totally convinced me in this one as Sunny O'Sullivan, the Irish lass with the fiery Irish temper, and the passionate nature in everything else she did. She was given the opportunity to show us her singing and dancing ability, which added much to the film.
More reviews are available on this film's IMDb page. The four reviews I found there are nearly unanimous in panning the film's plot, and also John Carroll, who plays Ann's leading man and love interest, but praised the dancers and their dance routines. They also criticized both films for having stripped out most of the musical numbers from the play. Me, I was glad enough to hear the music the producers chose to include in the film, thought that the romance story was sweet without being too sappy (hmmm… maybe 'Canadian maple syrup' sappy?), and thoroughly enjoyed both the settings (backstage at the circus, and the other circus that is the New Orleans Mardi Gras) and the characters, most of whom were full of personality. I laughed as the lawyer was made a fool; for the first time, I was not tempted to just post my large collection of lawyer jokes for a review.
Perhaps the film is not up to the Broadway musical, but the price of admission and the convenience of seeing it at home compensate quite a bit. I agree with one of the reviewers that this would have been much better in colour, but…(shrug) What we do have is a well-preserved print with few repair splices and reasonably clear picture and sound, though many scenes are a bit dark (because they were shot at night, or indoors in darkened settings). The AVI file (video encoded with XviD) offers a generous resolution (720x576), and is remarkably free of digital artifacts. I enjoyed this film (watched it twice already), and hope you will, too.